What do you hope to see happen in the men and women in your young adult group? Freedom? Healing? Transformation? What is it you want for them? A second chance? A new life? Fresh hope?
Of course you do.
But here’s the kicker: You can’t make it happen. You don’t have the power to transform. You don’t have the ability to create life. You aren’t what these folks need.
And if you have been in ministry long enough, you know this. You have nothing to offer. All you have is yourself, and that’s not much. You get depressed, write a draft of your resignation letter and decide to cash in your ministry chips. Or is it just me?
Ah! Not so fast. Suddenly and finally you remember—you do have one thing: Jesus. You have nothing but Jesus, and that is exactly and all you need … and all they need.
He can accomplish all those things we want to see happen. Freedom? Jesus said: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, TNIV). Healing? Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32, TNIV). Transformation? Paul writes: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, TNIV).
Each week people come to our meetings, our retreats, our offices, our reserved seating at local coffee shops to ask us to help them find answers to their questions. They may articulate it in different ways, but when it comes down to it, every man and woman we come in contact with is asking one thing: Will you show me Jesus?
So that’s the question: So how do you do it? How do you show others Jesus?
The classic model, which you have probably experienced, is what I call “the Gospel.” I know. The fact is I’m not very creative.
The normal Gospel sequence goes something like this:
1. God is real and He loves you.
2. God became man, and His name is Jesus.
3. Jesus proved He is God by performing miracles.
4. Jesus proved God cares by healing people.
5. Jesus proved that we need God by showing us our spiritual poverty.
6. Jesus proved God loves us by dying on the cross to forgive our sins.
7. God proved that he has power over death by raising Jesus from the dead.
Obviously, there is a little more to it. But basically, whether it is over a semester, a weekend or a pizza, if someone wants to know who Jesus is, the model we use is something like the above. It’s the model we have been taught, the model we know, the one that has been around since the Middle Ages.
No wonder we get suspicious that Jesus is not enough. We have heard the same story a thousand times, and we are afraid that the people we are talking to have heard it a thousand times. And they have.
But what are we to do? It’s the Gospel.
I went on this retreat several years ago. I went because Fil Anderson was speaking. (He wrote a book called Running on Empty, which I highly recommend.) The first night we read Mark 14:3-9, the passage about the anointing at Bethany. He gave a talk on the words “Why this waste,” painting a picture of Jesus I had never seen before: a wasteful Jesus, a man who turned more water into wine than it was possible to drink; who caused a miraculous catch of fish, only to tell the fishermen to drop their nets and follow Him; who allowed a year’s wages of perfume to be spilled onto the floor. It was amazing.
That next morning Fil stood up and read Mark 14:3-9. What? That was the passage he read the night before. We had already done this one. Fil could sense the audience’s uncertainty. After giving us a look that said “trust me,” he talked on the words “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing,” painting another portrait of Jesus—a lover of beauty and simplicity and small gifts that really aren’t that small. Jesus was personal and able to focus on one person. In the same way, Jesus desired intimacy with us. I was amazed again.
When Fil stood up that evening, he read, to no surprise, Mark 14:3-9. He spoke on the words “She did what she could,” painting a brand-new picture of Jesus. This Jesus valued this woman for who she was. It was a portrait of grace and love and mercy and relationship. It was a third picture of the same person. Although it was an entirely different perspective, somehow it made my understanding of the man clearer.
The last day, Fil again read the same passage. By this time, I had practically memorized the thing. He spoke on the words “She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial,” painting a picture of the cross I had never before considered. He put a wooden cross and a basin of perfumed water on the stage and told us to come and anoint the cross with perfume. I wept.
I left the weekend transformed. I knew Jesus better than ever before. And suddenly I realized what Fil had done. Fil had taken us deep. Instead of giving us the normal sequence, he trusted one Scripture, one simple picture of Jesus, to tell the story. I didn’t know one picture could change my life.
Since then, I have had the opportunity to lead retreats, give series of talks, plan semesters of content … but now I do it differently. I look to see how I can go deep. I look for ways I can paint the clearest picture of Jesus by laying aside the broad paintbrush and picking up the finishing pencil. I trust Scripture, simple pictures of Jesus, to tell the story. It has changed my life and, praise be to God, the lives of many who have come to have their questions answered.
Some Greeks came up to Philip, one of the disciples, one afternoon. They said, “We would like to see Jesus” (John 12:21, TNIV). Two thousand years later, our friends are asking the same thing: Will you show me Jesus?
We are today’s Philips with nothing to offer except our relationship to Jesus Christ, but that is all they are asking for and all they will ever need.
So lead them to Jesus; Show them a clear picture, a portrait of the One who is their heart’s desire, who is all they will ever need.
The next time you have the opportunity to share the Gospel, don’t go broad. Go deep.